Bolton Valley, VT 19APR2010

Today I headed up to the mountain for the final round of snow from the weekend system.  The first traces of snow on the ground were again around the 1,800’ level along the access road, and the temperature was near freezing in the village (2,100’).  It was hard to tell with some of the older accumulations of snow still hanging around, but I don’t think there had been much new snow accumulation at the base elevations since I’d last been there yesterday morning.  There had definitely been some precipitation since that time, but I suspect the temperatures kept new snow from sticking in the village.

Thanks to what had fallen before, there was at least some snow coverage all the way to the base elevations, but my first encounter with the snow revealed a surface that wasn’t that inspiring.  The freezing line had gone up yesterday, and now that it had come back down, those areas with wet snow were crunchy and any impressions in the snow were locked up like hardened plaster.  I was confident that temperatures had stayed low enough in the higher elevations though, so I suspected there were going to be some good turns up there somewhere.

I hopped on my usual skin track at the bottom of Beech Seal, but eventually diverged to set a new track up Sprig O’ Pine and Cobrass Run to get to Cobrass itself.  After a few days of skinning across Cobrass Lane, I was feeling like this new route might be a more direct way to get to Cobrass.  As I was first skinning through the crusty snow at the base, I wondered how that stuff was going to transform into the quality snow that I suspected to find up high.  Watching the transformations in snow quality or depth as one ascends is always interesting to me, and yesterday revealed quite a diverse snow/elevation profile in just a thousand feet of elevation gain.  For the first couple hundred feet of the ascent, I didn’t notice much of a change in the snow consistency, and then with each plant of my pole I had the feeling that the crust was getting thinner.  Soon, with flicks of my pole I found what appeared to be powder sitting on top of the crust, almost unperceivable at first, but it was soon obvious.  It was eventually hard to say if the crusty snow was getting softer, or the powder on top was getting deeper, but by the time I’d reached mid mountain (-2,500’) I was skinning through some decent fresh snow.  The crustiness was gone, and the transformation from that point was just an increase in lighter powder atop a gradient of denser snow below.  It looked like the skiing was going to be very nice on the top half of the mountain.

As I ascended Cobrass, I encountered powdery drifts in the range of 6 to 12 inches on top of the previous rounds of snow, and with a bit of wind and temperatures below freezing, it was actually starting to feel a lot like winter again.  By the Cobrass picnic table at roughly 2,900’ I took the opportunity to get a settled snow measurement for the whole event, since it looked we’d seen our final round of snowfall.  I measured just shy of 8 inches of depth on the seat of the table, and the top of the stack actually featured some pretty dry snow.  I finished my ascent and checked on the snow plot I’d been monitoring to find that the depth of the overnight snowfall was right at three inches.  With that in the bank, it put the event snow totals at around 3 to 4 inches at 2,100’, and 11 to 13 inches at 3,100’ based on what I’ve seen over the four days of snowfall.  Down at the house this morning, I’d recorded my final precipitation from the system:  0.23 inches of liquid for the previous 24 hours.  That brought my valley precipitation total to 2.06 inches, so presumably the mountain picked up at least that much liquid, and in the higher elevations, most of that is still locked up in the snowpack.  For reference, measurements at the Mt. Mansfield stake recorded 11 inches of snow and 3.17 inches of liquid equivalent for the period, and on Mt. Washington, 15.2 inches of snow and 1.72 inches of liquid were recorded.  In any case, this event certainly gave a boost to the snowpack in the higher elevations; the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield stake went from 43 inches on 4/15 to 54 inches on 4/18.

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The sun started to come out while I was putting away my skins, so I grabbed a few more photos and then it was time to ski.  I could say that today was the crème de la crème in terms of skiing with this system, but it may not have been, and each day had its strengths.  Today won hands down in terms of snowpack of course.  The continued accumulations of dense snow really made skiing practical on all but the steepest/ledgy runs or those with substantial underlying debris.  Also, today the upper mountain was topped off with some of the driest snow accumulations that I’ve seen over these past few days.  But, wind definitely did some work up high, packing the powder down in some areas, and the skiing was crusty and not too fun below mid mountain.  After checking out Spillway and Hard Luck, I could see that the wind had worked them a little.  I didn’t have the time for multiple runs, so I opted to go with some turns down Sherman’s Pass because I could see it was a sure thing.  The turns on the upper half of Sherman’s were really nice.  While skiing, I still only sunk down into those first few inches of light powder, but below that layer was a gradient of denser snow that was really smooth and soft.  Turns were decent down to about 2,400’, a bit below mid mountain, and below there it was still crusty and I just skied it out.  Certainly lapping the upper half of the mountain was the way to go if one had the time.

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Just as I was approaching the base, I ran into Nile starting his ascent, and we chatted for a minute while I gave him the lowdown on the conditions I’d seen.  He said I’d be heading into more sun as I went into Burlington, and he was right.  The clouds gradually dissipated as I headed out of the mountains, and in Burlington it was getting really nice, even though there was still a bit of breeze.  The mountain has certainly been transformed with this event, brining nearly wall to wall coverage to most places above 2,000’.  I would expect the lower mountain areas to improve with the warming (although the lowest elevations will probably melt out quickly) and on the upper mountain, the quality of turns will probably drop a bit from where they were until the snow can be cycled into corn.

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